Axolotls are remarkable animals with a prehistoric look and a relatively recent history. Axolotls are one of the rarest amphibians on Earth and actually live in only one place on Earth.
Unlike most salamanders, axolotls retain their juvenile characteristics and aquatic habitat all through their often lengthy lifespan. As Animal Diversity Web explains, this makes axolotls a neotenic species.
These animals, with their long tadpole-like tails, enormous heads, and gill “feathers,” can live happily in a captive aquarium environment if they get their habitat and nutritional needs fully met.
Can axolotls eat chicken? Is chicken safe for axolotls? Could chicken be a dietary staple or is it better as a treat food only? We will look at the answers to these important questions in this article.
Watch An Adult Axolotl Eat a Piece of Raw Chicken
When you watch this keeper-made video of an adult axolotl consuming a piece of raw chicken, you may notice the keeper doing something odd during the feeding process.
The keeper actually sticks their fingers into the aquarium and waves the piece of chicken in front of the axolotl’s face.
Why would the keeper do this?
The answer is key to understanding the axolotl’s feeding preferences and needs in captivity.
Learn How Axolotls Eat Their Food
As ThoughtCo highlights, axolotls are pure carnivores whether they are living in the wild or in captivity.
Axolotls require a diet of pure animal protein to survive and remain healthy all throughout their life.
The axolotl does not see very well. This is because these animals traditionally have been bottom-dwellers, hunting along the bottoms of the lake system where they are found in Mexico. They don’t get much light and have to hunt based on movement and scent.
When something moves nearby, this will cause the axolotl to open its mouth and snap it shut as a way to catch prey. The axolotl will use its tooth stumps to hold on to live prey as it swallows the prey whole.
This explains what you saw in the video in the previous section here where the keeper held the chicken and waved it in front of the pet axolotl. The keeper was trying to get the axolotl’s attention with movement so it would feed.
This is the primary reason why it is best to feed your axolotl live whole prey food. But it isn’t the only reason, as we will talk about in the next section here.
Live, Whole Prey Is the Best Food for Axolotls
Not only is live, whole prey the best choice for your axolotl’s primary food source because the movement stimulates hunting, but it is also the most complete food source.
When your axolotl eats whole food prey, your pet takes in a complete protein source that also includes vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
This, in turn, can reduce or eliminate any need to supplement your axolotl’s diet with vitamins or minerals.
Having said that, however, some live whole prey foods are much better for axolotls than others. This holds true both in terms of the size of the prey versus the size of the axolotl and the nutrient content.
Whole prey for a baby or young juvenile axolotls
The best whole prey for a baby or young juvenile axolotls is brine shrimp, daphnia, blackworms, or bloodworms (live or frozen).
Whole prey for older juvenile or adult axolotls
The best whole prey foods for older juvenile or adult axolotls are always going to be earthworms or nightcrawlers.
Chicken Is Not a Whole Food Source for Axolotls
As Aztec Axolotls breeder points out, whenever you are feeding a part of an animal to another animal, you aren’t offering whole and complete nutrition.
For example, you might offer chicken white meat or dark meat, chicken liver, chicken heart, or other chicken parts. These parts contain different levels of nutrients. Some parts have more fat or more vitamins or minerals. Some contain more lean protein.
Since it isn’t possible to feed a whole chicken to an axolotl, the best you will ever be able to do is try to select the part of the chicken with the best nutrition for axolotls. This is lean protein. But something will still be missing.
Should You Feed Raw or Cooked Chicken to Axolotls?
As Next Nature points out, human beings are the only species that routinely cook their food before eating it.
Your axolotl’s digestive tract is not designed to digest and use nutrients from cooked foods. So cooking the chicken first may cause gastrointestinal issues for your pet.
However, feeding raw chicken has its own dangers as well. Anytime you feed raw animal protein to another animal, there is the risk of transmitting bacteria, fungus, or parasites along with the protein.
If feeding chicken to your axolotl is your only option for any reason, the best choice is a piece of lean white meat raw chicken for a meal or a sliver of chicken liver or chicken heart as a treat.
As Reptiles Forums explains, feeding the chicken with tongs is a more sanitary option than what you saw in the earlier keeper video here where the keeper used fingers to offer the chicken.
You can use the tongs to dangle and wiggle the chicken piece around in front of your axolotl to trigger the feeding behavior. Be sure to offer sufficiently small pieces of chicken so your axolotl can safely swallow them without a choking risk.
As Better Pets and Gardens highlights, if you are in a hurry and don’t have time to dangle the food with tongs, you can drop it in and leave it.
Your axolotl will likely happen across it eventually by using the scent as a guide. But be sure to clean up whatever remains uneaten as soon as you can so it doesn’t foul up the water and cause skin irritation or disease.
Will Axolotls Eat Chicken?
Axolotls can definitely learn to eat chicken, especially if you make it easy for them by using tongs to wave it in front of your pet’s face.
There is nothing particularly bad about feeding the occasional sliver of raw chicken meat as a treat. But it is also not necessary and there are some risks you are now aware of.
Chicken should never be fed as a staple food source, even if it is in pelleted food form. If you choose to feed sinking pellets as the main food source, look for fish-based pellets that are suitable for bottom dwellers like axolotls.
The hands-down best feeding approach is to simply stick to feeding whole, live prey such as bloodworms for young axolotls and earthworms for older axolotls. These whole prey foods are easy for your axolotl to grasp and swallow and offer complete nutrition.
Always Supervise Axolotl Feeding for Safety
Experienced axolotl keepers know all too well that axolotls are surprisingly fragile and vulnerable animals. They have soft bodies and no external defenses to protect their skin or gills.
One of the biggest risks when feeding axolotls is the risk of the food getting caught in their gills. Another big risk is the risk that your pet will swallow a food source that gets stuck in the throat and causes suffocation.
Always err on the side of smaller foods than you think your axolotl can easily swallow. With chicken, be sure to feed only very small thin pieces and always observe the feeding.